For the benefit of the curious novice, I took notes during my first experiments with pot, in order to provide a first hand account of what the experience is really like. But I also took a lot of notes on what the event--and, more importantly, the lifestyle--is like for these people who've been smoking pot for decades. What does pot actually do to someone who's been smoking it for 30 years?
Here of course, I don't have any first hand information. So it was here that I first started thinking of myself as being like that scientist played by Sigourney Weaver in Gorillas in the Mist.
For people who love pot, Amsterdam is like Israel. It's the promised land. It's the one place in all the world where they can smoke pot in public without fear of persecution. And during the week of the Cannabis Cup, there are more freedom-yearning Americans wandering around this little city in a stoner haze than at any other time, which means I was able to observe them in the closest thing possible to their natural habitat. So, I studied them. I talked to them at length, and I took lots of notes. Here are my findings.
1.) Pot smokers are mellow. They are a peaceful and tranquil people. It's ironic that the reason pot was outlawed was because it allegedly made its users violent and kill-crazy, when in actuality the reverse is true. People who are stoned are peaceful and happy.
2.) Smoking pot definitely messes with your short term memory. When you are stoned, it's easy to get distracted, or to forget entirely what you were about to say or do. One morning in the Bluebird, a couple of stoners we'd been talking to decided to move on. After a few minutes, one of them returned. "First stoner move of the day," he said, collecting the backpack he'd left behind. Later in the week, Kristin did the same thing. Of course, forgetfulness like this can happen even to the non-smoker, and often does, but it seems a little more common among stoners. But on the other hand, while I often saw stoners lose track of what they were doing, such moments were always brief. Pot doesn't erase your short term memory... it just jumbles it slightly, so that it's easy to temporarily lose your place, as it were. (But of course, these effects are temporary... when you come down, 2-3 hours later, it's back to normal as if nothing happened.)
3.) Stoners have an increased tendency to be clumsy. Stoners bump into each other and knock things over a lot. However, since this fact is universally understood by stoners, they tend to be more patient with such behavior than non-stoners would be. They understand that clumsiness comes with the territory, and a stoner will always forgive a clumsy move by another person as soon as they realize that said person is stoned. Stoners are also more forgiving anyway, since they are mellow and tranquil (see #1).
4.) One of the few well known things about pot that really is true is that it gives you the munchies. Stoners like their snacks, making this one of the strongest arguments for legalization of pot, at least for medical use. The increased appetite it gives you can make a real difference for people with medical problems that cause loss of appetite. Knowing this, though, made me curious: do pot smokers tend to be overweight? I would have guessed so, particularly after seeing how true this rumored effect really is... but I didn't see any real indication of this. The stoners I met ran the usual spectrum, from skinny to heavy. During a 4:20 counsel, one man pulled up his shirt to reveal his trim stomach, and thumping it, proclaimed that he'd been smoking pot for 50 years and it hadn't done him any harm yet.
5.) Stoners are not punctual. There were many events scheduled throughout the week, and none of the ones I went to started on time. "Why is this taking so long to get started?" I asked the guy beside me. "Because everyone's been smoking pot!" came the reply. But even so, things always got underway, sooner or later. Indeed, while smoking pot does seem to slow people down, it doesn't seem to keep them from getting the job done--eventually. It's pretty impressive when you think about it: This entire week-long extravaganza was organized and run entirely by people who were smoking a lot of marijuana... yet it was as well run as any other convention I've ever been to. The notion that stoners don't do anything except sit around stoned seems completely ungrounded to me, from what I witnessed this week in Amsterdam. In fact, I would challenge any group of drinkers to stay drunk for a week and do as well.
6.) On the other hand, it is certainly a stoner trait to excitedly make plans while high on marijuana, and then later forget all about those plans. After meeting a couple of women from North Carolina, and talking about getting together sometime back in the states, one of them said "Let's not let this be one of those stoner things that we talk about doing but never follow up on." But of course, it was.
Other than that, the stoners I met all seemed perfectly, well... normal. They weren't constantly giggling or acting stupid or speaking gibberish, or any of those things. I think it's actually pretty difficult to determine if someone who's been smoking pot nightly for 10 years is high or not. I met an awful lot of stoned people on this trip, but most of the time, you really couldn't tell. They seemed like regular folks. Hardly worth persecuting.
These findings, of course, are based on a study only of the most passionate stoners, the ones who were so interested in pot as to be willing to spend a thousand dollars on a trip to a pothead convention. But if pot truly is a wicked, life-destroying menace, this cross section should be the most revealing, as these are the people who've been the most corrupted by that drug, right?